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Budget Forecast Calls for Bigger Surplus: The state’s early projection of a $1 billion surplus has grown to a whopping $1.9 billion dollar surplus for the next two-year budget. While the good news that our budget is in the black, the size of the surplus has set off a debate about where these surplus dollars should go. The House GOP has called for investments in early childhood and K-12 education, while reserving a portion of the surplus to go back to Minnesota taxpayers. Governor Dayton does not support the tax cuts and instead favors investments in education and transportation. The budget news sets the stage for final negotiations of the state’s budget to occur over the next 5-7 weeks.
Met Council: Last week HF 75, authored by Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines), was heard for the first time in the Met Council Oversight Committee. The bill would take many of the currently mandatory items associated with comprehensive planning and growth and make them advisory guidelines. As has occurred in previous meetings, local government officials, this time from the City of Crystal, Anoka County, and Carver County spoke against the current mandatory planning requirements associated with the Council’s Thrive 2040 plan. The hearing was informational, no votes were taken.
Wetlands: The Governor has green-lighted a late introduction of an agency bill amending MNs wetland statutes. Industry and business community representatives, including BATC law firm Larkin Hoffman, were engaged in the development of the bill. The bill appears to be a reasonable approach to allow greater flexibility for certain sites dealing with Wetland Mitigation issues. The concept gathering the most attention is the possibility to pay a fee in lieu of wetland creation mitigation. This concept is similar to the park dedication fee system currently used across the region. Expect the introduction of bills in both the House and Senate this week.
Codes Technical Bill: Look for SF 201/HF 539 to begin to move the process. Stakeholders have been discussing the creation of a 6-year code cycle and a 1-year implementation for codes developed in the future. There appears to be agreement across the stakeholder spectrum on these concepts, increasing the chance that these bills will clear the committee deadlines approaching later in March.